Wakayama Officials Say Integrated Resort Casino Must Focus on Wellness and Nature

Posted on: January 11, 2021, 10:45h. 

Last updated on: January 11, 2021, 11:55h.

Casinos and health and wellness don’t typically resonate together. But Wakayama lawmakers want their potential integrated resort (IR) to be a healing apparatus.

Wakayama casino Japan integrated resort
Marina City in Wakayama is where city and prefecture leaders want to place an integrated resort. However, the casino will play second fiddle to health and wellness. (Image: Marina City)

The Wakayama prefecture has announced specifics regarding its IR, and what features interested bidders would be smart to include. Along with creating jobs and improving the region’s economy, Wakayama officials want the development to incorporate natural elements of the city.

Wakayama’s IR implementation policy urges casino consortiums to prepare bids to implement the waterfront, hot springs, and local culture into the resort plans.

Nature-based activity tourism is a leading trend in tourism globally,” Wakayama’s Fundamental Concept for IR policy declares. “Wakayama has great potential as a tourist destination with its wide variety of recreation.

“Blessed with a long coastline, deep mountains, and many rivers, almost every kind of experience-type tourism is possible,” the request-for-proposal explains.

Three Expected Results

Wakayama is a small prefecture and city, and its population has been declining for a quarter of a century. Since 2010, Wakayama has been the only prefecture in the Kansai region with fewer than one million residents.

While global casino operators interested in building in Japan prefer investing in major cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, or Osaka, Japan lawmakers legalized commercial gambling in an effort to spur economic growth in struggling cities. Wakayama certainly meets that criteria.

Wakayama leaders say they’re in the casino bidding process for three primary reasons: job creation, economic development, and tourism promotion. City officials have offered up an approximately 50-acre plot of land in the Wakayama Marina City. The location is roughly a 60-minute train or car ride from Osaka.

The resort will not be a casino-first destination. The Wakayama government says the casino should be a minor element of the complex, with the gaming floor limited to three percent of the total IR space.

Proposals should offer diverse tourist attractions, the policy mandates. That includes sailing, surfing, fishing, diving, golf, rafting, and a spa. The hotel should offer 2,500 “high-grade” guestrooms, and a convention center measuring at least 50,000 square meters (538,000 square feet).

Visitors Preferred

Wakayama wants to make sure a commercial casino does not result in societal harm to its residents, a notion the central government also considered during its legalizing of gambling.

The national government requires that the three forthcoming casinos levy a JPY3,000 (USD$29) entrance fee on Japanese residents. Locals are also limited to three visits a week or 10 times a month.

Entry into the Wakayama casino for nationals will be even costlier, as the prefecture is adding on an additional JPY3,000. Residents are also only permitted to gamble with cash, as they won’t be able to access funds through credit card transactions.

If Wakayama and its selected casino bid successfully wins one of the three IR licenses, prefecture leaders say the development would be expected to open in 2026.

Hong Kong’s Suncity Group is the leading interested party in Wakayama. The casino firm is led by CEO Alvin Chau, who made his fortune operating VIP junket groups in China’s Macau.